Chapter 12

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After years of making breakfast for himself every morning, Art had the process down. Since there were four of them, he fried a whole pound of bacon. Most people might consider that excessive, but Art figured there could never be too much bacon. He stored the crispy strips in the broiler beneath his oven, the pilot light keeping the bacon warm until the rest of the meal was ready.

He drained off some of the grease and fried the eggs in the same skillet. At just the right time, he added a slice of cheese atop each of the eggs. Toasted and buttered English muffins waited for him on the counter. He scooped the eggs from the skillet and taking care placed one on each muffin.

Joey entered the kitchen and studied him.

"Hey there," Art said. "Nothing beats the smell of frying bacon in the morning. Wouldn't you agree?"

Joey said nothing.

"Want to help me?"

That got a smile from the little tyke.

Art pulled the pan from the broiler and using tongs placed a layer of bacon on the sandwich. He placed another layer going in the opposite direction. "Can you put the other half of the English muffin on top?"

To Art's surprise, Joey understood and did as instructed. He handed the plate to the boy. "This one is yours. Go ahead and take it to the dining room."

He cringed as Joey started running from the kitchen with his plate. He breathed easier hearing no crash, but from the dining room, he heard Natalya scolding him. He finished the other sandwiches and joined his company.

The two women, Natalya and Jen, were watching Joey eat.

As Art set the plates in front of each of them, his daughter said, "He's just a kid, Dad, he'll never be able to finish that big sandwich."

Art shrugged. "Who cares?"

Jen raised an eyebrow at him and attacked her sandwich. Natalya did the same.

It gave Art a contented feeling, all of them having breakfast together. He couldn't explain why. Between bites of his own sandwich, Art asked, "So, what have you two ladies been talking about?"

Jen shrugged. "Just getting to know each other."

Her answer seemed evasive. Neither of them volunteered anything else.

"Mmm, this is so good," Natalya said, "even if it isn't heart-healthy."

"Nothing that tastes good is heart-healthy," Jen said.

Joey reached for his cup of orange juice.

"Careful, don't spill it," Natalya warned.

From her seat beside him, Jen helped Joey and made sure he didn't tilt the glass too far forward. "I taught Joey how to play pattycake a little while ago. He's a natural at it."

Art remembered having taught both Steven and Jen the game when they had been little.

Joey finished his juice, set down his glass, and smiled at Jen.

"Your son is charming," Jen said in a wistful tone. Art figured she had to be thinking about her lost baby.

Natalya set down her sandwich and took a sip of coffee. "I love him, but he can be an overwhelming handful at times, more so than a non-Downs child."

It surprised Art how the two women got along so well, having just met and given the circumstances that had brought him and Natalya together. He doubted Steven would be as accommodating toward their guest. He could just imagine his son being apoplectic over her even being under his roof.

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